US$89m Covid-19 funds may have been stolen, Chiwenga tried to conceal report
By Nyashadzashe Ndoro
Auditor-General Mildred Chiri noted systematic abuse of funds, characterised by the use of fake names, identity documents and mobile phone numbers in suspected looting of US$89 022 103 meant for Zimbabweans heavily affected by Covid-19.
The money was to cover the likes of small-to-medium enterprises whose incomes were affected by lockdowns, food insecure households, people with disabilities, the elderly, chronically-ill persons and child-headed households.
For months, Health Minister Constantino Chiwenga, who doubles as Vice President tried to conceal the audit report that exposed the mess resulting in AG Chiri resorting to directing a copy of the report to National Assembly Speaker Jacob Mudenda for tabling in Parliament.
The audit was funded by the World Bank.
The report noted that US$89 022 103 was disbursed but could have been unaccounted for because of the “the processes of identification and assessment of intended beneficiaries was not properly co-ordinated, resulting in unreliable databases of beneficiaries, processing of payments to duplicate beneficiary names and beneficiaries who had similar identity numbers, but of different gender and dates of birth.”
Chiri also noted that the easing of some controls and the streamlining of processes and procedures to facilitate emergency responses and quick actions to Covid-19 crisis, exposed President Emmerson Mnangagwa’s government to the possible risks of misuse or abuse of public resources.
Chiri added that: “Inadequate record-keeping was a common feature as the ministries, departments and agencies did not always have updated or reliable information on the donations received and distributed, goods and services delivered and reports on the implementation status of the government initiatives to fight the pandemic.
“This resulted in some beneficiaries, including the government officials, receiving Covid-19 relief disbursements they might not have been entitled to. This defeated the purpose for which the disbursements were made as the intended beneficiaries could have been deprived of the assistance.”
The report noted that there was “no follow-up mechanism was developed to verify the existence of the beneficiaries and whether the allowances had reached the intended beneficiaries.”
It was discovered again that feedback in the form of paysheets were provided by the Public Service ministry head office to provincial and district offices regarding the names of beneficiaries who had qualified and had been paid the Covid-19 relief allowances to facilitate confirmation of receipt and reconciliations.
Last year former Health Minister Obadiah Moyo was arrested and charged with criminal abuse of office over the awarding of a US$60m tender to a company that allegedly Covid-19 materials to the government at inflated prices. Nehanda Radio